india

Three Things I learned from Travelling in India

munnar_tea_fields_india.jpgThe beautiful, misty green hills of Munnar, Kerala. If you listen closely, you can hear the click-clacking of a thousand tea scissors and the tiny buzz of chatter from the tea women in Mailalym.

I have always dreamed about India.

So a little over a month ago I booked tickets and found myself there.

I can’t put a finger on what it was that drew me there but never have I travelled so hard in my life and never have I had stranger experiences than the ones I have had there. I shall credit mom and dad for creating me with a large dose of curiosity, a love for rule breaking and a reckless lust for photogenic places.

As I sit home on my comfy couch editing photos and reflecting from my trip, here is a list of things that I learned from travelling in India.

1. Embrace the mystery/creativity
Life is mysterious. I left looking for answers but realized I didn’t need to know them after all. You don’t have the answers and you never will.  A friendly tip to people looking forward to visiting India: prepare to be surprised out of your socks. Mostly in unpleasant smelly ways. Haha kidding. I learned to leave room for creativity and surprise and I found that I have gained more in the process.

2. Contentment
I have found myself looking at things in a different way that I didn’t use to. A different way that I hope never goes away. I realized that I live a very blessed life and live in a wonderful, wonderful city. I love work with the ups and downs, people I have in my life and never have I cherished more the freedom to wear anything I want, take long hot showers(in a clean bathroom!) and eat ice cream from my freezer at night. Thank you India.

3. People
It sounds ridiculous to compare a person living in North America to someone living in the slums in India. But it’s true! At the end of the day, people are people. We need love, food, shelter, a job, a purpose, friends, encouragement, fun things etc. Those things don’t change and you can be a good or bad person anywhere in the world and still be a good or bad person. The world needs more good people so let’s all be good to each other.

Other than that, I rode on a 30 hour train (the longest I’ve been my entire life), met a bunch of amazing people I will not soon forget, obtained some scars from being in scary pottys, had the best Indian food of my life, cried and laughed during the weird and sentimental bits, got my first food poisoning, left bits of my heart in a Children’s Home to many tiny souls and left quite aware that I became a better person because of this trip.

If you are reading this and curious about travelling to India. I will say yes. Ten thousand times yes.

munnar_tea_fields_india_2To adventure xx

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King’s Kids Children’s Home, India

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The kids in their play clothes after a school day on campus. They love having their photos taken.

Here are photos from King’s Kid’s in Jangareddygudem, India. Where I spent 10 days living on campus photographing and interacting with the children.

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Morning music worship, it’s so fun to see these kids dancing to western songs. 
india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-6.jpgChore time – cooking for 50 kids is so much more easier when you have little helpers that help you cut veggies.

I must have gathered enough stories here to last a lifetime and it’s so hard to put all the stories into one blog post. These are times that I am just thankful for words and memories to hold on to this experience.

A day at the school typically starts with the kids waking up, bombarding you with hugs and rushing around for chores and breakfast before going off to school. I have never seen kids as eager to help or learn and it has been wonderful getting to see it for myself.

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A day in class.
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Varden, the goofiest kid on campus. Varden’s family work as missionaries that migrate their homes each season due to monsoon rain and floods. At the children’s home, Varden is provided with food, shelter and the opportunity to go to school every day.
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Pavan washing his clothes in a pail.

I wish I could describe the way Akash giggles every time you praise him even though he struggles with autism. Or the way Nera gets up at 4am to pray everyday and comes up to me after meals to ask “Your dish, I wash?” I hope that I will never forget the thanks that come from the villagers when you pray for them and the beautiful colours of sunsets in the Indian sky.

india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-5.jpgThis is Siddu, who wants to be a doctor and writer when he grows up. When I ask why his response is always ” So I can help people.”

There is Siddu and Esther, wonderful children with wonderful parents that have no money to send them to school but raised them to be the most helpful kids and best students on campus. There is Honey who comes from a begging background but is the most cheerful and shy boy who giggles every time you make eye contact with him. There is Anjelie, Sandy, Ujwal, Indu and Nandu who were orphans that thrive on the tiniest bit of affection you give them.

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Photo shoot by the eucalyptus and cashew trees on campus. The girls insisted on wearing their fanciest traditional clothes while the boys just wanted to climb trees.
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Village outreach. We ended finding this group of toddlers and taught them songs and shared a meal after.india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-9.jpg
Colours of the Indian sunset

I  spent the time on campus getting frustrated with the lack of wifi, rice and lentils for every meal and missing the freedom to roam around on my own while trying to cook food for 50 children with a stove and blender that died or stopped whenever the power went out. 

Despite the challenges of such a harsh environment, there is more beauty and hope here than I have found in other places and I have learned to appreciate the small moments that make this experience so beautiful. I leave super grateful for many things and am excited for the future of all the kids that live here.

kings_kids_children_arise_india-15The Kings Kids is a children’s home funded under the organization Children Arise in Canada. The children are taken care of by my friend Anita who left her teaching career in Vancouver to help start the home five years ago. Kings Kids is currently home to 50 children, 15 of which are unsponsored. Leave a comment or shoot me a message if you have any questions or would like to know more!

The Pink City: Jaipur, India

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The Majestic Hawa Mahal – Palace of the Winds. You can almost imagine the royal ladies peeking at the busy street from the windows 200 years ago. The area is now packed with shops, tourists and people yelling at you to come in their shops. My tuk tuk driver stopped for 2 minutes and someone shouted at me from the temple above where I was able to go up for a better shot.

Hello from Jaipur India!

This is the last week where I begin to wrap up a month of a very well travelled trip.

I wish I had the words to properly describe the blasts of smells, noise, traffic, people setting off Diwali fireworks and the goats, cows, dogs, children that pepper the streets with alarming density.

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Colours of Diwali. Found in a very crowed street littered with firework remains, cow poop, discarded chai cups, half eaten chapatis and burnt incense. This little table was like a breath of fresh air in a fantastically crazy world.

Most days it feels like my brain is still trying to digest everything that has happened in the last few hours and there are days when you feel like hiding under the bed covers and holding on to the remaining bits of my comfort zone.

I am glad to say that curiosity always wins and if there is one thing I can take away from India is the face the day with a fierce determination everyone seems to hold.

So here is Jaipur, in all of it’s pink splendour, it’s majestic architecture and poverty stricken sites. I will do my best to write as honestly as I can and leave the rest to photography and your imagination.

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The wonderfully pink and perfectly symmetric City Palace(The Hall of Public Audience and Chandra Mahal). This is probably my favourite space yet. I am with you if it reminds you of Wes Anderson.

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I could have spent all day here. A photographer’s dream.

jaipur_city_palace_guardThe happy guards at the City Palace Gate. Rumour has it that these guards are hired to wear red turbans and smoke opium all day. Maybe that is why they always say yes to photos.

jaipur_water_palaceA serene moment by the Water Palace right before sunset.

Tomorrow we head to Agra. I have always dreamed about visiting the Taj Mahal and will keep pinching myself to make sure this is all very real.

Allepey: The Backwaters of Kerala, India

india_kerala_allepey-2The calm waters of Allepey, Kerala. It’s so peaceful here.

Hello from Kerala, India!

Besides having a load of unexpected events happen each day or learning the concept of “Indian time”. It has been an amazing time and I am glad to say I’ve met and made a few lovely and warm locals that spent no time in helping us get around or tell us everything we wanted to know about their life in India.

After arriving in Allepey, we spent the day on a houseboat drifting around the canals with short stops between villages and the endless rice patties. 

india_kerala_allepey-5Plantains – a main part of the Indian diet. I’ve tried it fried in batter with cumin, folded into coconut omelettes, tucked into Thaili meals and eaten raw like a normal banana.

india_kerala_allepey-4The tata with the coolest eyebrows who offered to row us around on his tiny boat (200 rupees) and said yes to this photo after we politely declined.

india_kerala_allepey-6Our cook on the houseboat was a marvellous one. We had papped fried in coconut oil, vegetable stir fry with coconut, the best sambar daal, cucumber bean salad and multiple rounds of chai each day. 

It’s been very interesting observing the locals and most of the time I am just blown away by the similarities and differences we have. 

Everyday people work(fish, grow rice or row boats), eat curry, bathe and basically live their lives by the river. It is refreshing to experience such a simple way of life and it makes me very grateful for the conveniences I am so used to on a day to day basis.

india_kerala_allepey-3The rows and rows of endless rice patties. I am certain that most of India is covered in rice fields.

As we travel through Kerala, I feel like I’ve understood a little more of this mysterious country in it’s vastness, beauty, culture, the people and everything in between that leaves me hungering for more.

Next up, Varkala Beach, Munnar and Kochin!